Pope Benedict XVI, who turns 86 in April, Â said Monday that he will resign on the evening of 28 February, saying he “had to recognise my incapacity to adequately fulfil the ministry entrusted to me.”
During a routine meeting, the soon-to-be-former pope read a statement that said, in part, that after examining his conscience â€śbefore God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exerciseâ€ť of leading the worldâ€™s one billion Roman Catholics.
â€śIn todayâ€™s world,â€ť Benedict said in his announcement, â€śsubject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.â€ť
Vatican revealed that it expects a new Pope to be elected before the end of the next months, ahead of Easter.
There are 118 electorsÂ who will choose a new popeÂ as of January 2013. Italy has the most cardinal-electors at 28, and the United States follows with 11.
There are already some guesses onÂ who will be the next pope. So, three expert Vatican watchers offer their own list of Italian cardinals who might be elected as the next pope.
Their list includes Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, archbishop of Genoa, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian-born former Archbishop of Quebec and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, elevated to cardinal in 2010 and head of the Pontifical Council for Culture.
“I knowÂ a lot of bishops and cardinals from Latin AmericaÂ who could take responsibility for the universal Church,” Archbishop Gerhard Mueller told reporters last year. “The universal Church teaches that Christianity isn’t centred on Europe.”
Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana or Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria, each a front-runner, couldÂ possibly become the first black pope.
However, some suggest that “Victor I, from 189 to 199, was the first black pope. He was born in the Roman province of Africa, as were Pope Miltilades (311-314) and Pope Gelasius I 492-496,” The Telegraph writes.
Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Vatican department for Christian unity, predicted that the churchâ€™s future was not in Europe.
â€śIt would be good if there were candidates from Africa or South America at the next conclave,â€ť he said. Asked if he would vote for a non-European over a European candidate if they were equally qualified, he responded: â€śYes.â€ť
The election of a new pope must begin between 15 and 20 days after Benedict’s resignation, according to The Huffington Post.
Eligible cardinals will hold a secret voting at the Sistine Chapel. Two votes are held each morning and two each afternoonÂ until a new pope is chosen.
After each round the ballots are burned. Thus, black smoke means that no pope has been selected, and white smoke means someone has been selected.
Meanwhile, Pope Benedict revealed to reporters his plans after the resignation: he would devote his time to reflection and prayer.
In his statement, Pope Benedict said he wished “to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.”